Thunderbird Prep Principal Emmanuel Vincent, whose spring hiring sparked parent outrage at the troubled Cornelius charter school, was fired from his previous job after less than seven months.
Vincent was hired July 1, 2015, to open Furlow Charter School in Americus, Ga. The board there fired him on Jan. 12 based on “breach of confidentiality, lack of professionalism and violations of state and federal law,” according to a termination notice provided through a public records request.
In March, the board at Thunderbird Preparatory Academy chose Vincent over interim director Andrea McKinney to lead the school into its third year. That decision helped fuel what some state officials described as an unprecedented level of parent protest, which included petitions to remove Vincent and/or board Chairman Peter Mojica.
Vincent declined to comment on his past job, saying he’s focused on preparing Thunderbird for the coming school year.
Most of the anger at his hiring seems to have centered on the decision not to keep McKinney, who had led a private school in the area and attempted to convert it to a charter school. But emails from a Thunderbird Prep parent obtained through a public records request refer to “what some parents claim to have discovered about Dr. Vincent and his past track record.”
The records request to the Furlow board yielded a Jan. 3 formal reprimand, saying that his December principal’s report to the charter board disclosed information about several Furlow students that is deemed confidential by federal law. That reprimand says that “your apparent lack of concern at the serious nature of your actions” prompted the board to demand a written apology and a remediation plan within three days.
“The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated,” the reprimand letter from board Chair Elizabeth Kuipers says. “While we do not believe that this was a malicious act ... the situation highlights an ongoing problem with ineffective communication.”
The reprimand upbraids Vincent for a December email about flooding in the charter school’s kitchen, which “certainly did not need to go to every employee of the Sumter County School system.”
The Furlow records show that Vincent submitted the apology and remediation plan on Jan. 5. However, the board terminated him Jan. 12, requiring him to leave immediately, surrender “all documents, materials and copies” related to Furlow business and “immediately remove all references to FCS, including pictures, from (his) personal or business Facebook page, web page, and all other media and refrain from using such references in the future.”
Mojica declined to comment on Vincent’s firing from that job, except to say that the search firm Thunderbird used had vetted the candidates and the board was fully informed. “We have a great school principal,” Mojica said Friday.
Ironically, Vincent faced flooding almost immediately in his new job. Heavy rain brought water pouring into some Thunderbird classrooms, prompting some parents to file Health Department complaints about mold.
Parent complaints and financial problems that predate Vincent prompted the state’s Charter School Advisory Board to summon Thunderbird leaders to a June 14 meeting in Raleigh. No one showed up, and when Vincent was located at a new principal training session elsewhere in the education building he realized he had failed to open the email notifying him that Thunderbird was on the agenda.
The advisory board voted unanimously to recommend closing Thunderbird. But after a special meeting June 30 to hear from Thunderbird leaders, the board unanimously rescinded that recommendation and gave Thunderbird another year to fix the problems.